Jamie Carragher thinks that Newcastle United’s tactics against Manchester City were embarrassing.
Indeed, he claims that when any club comes up against the Premier League top six, the tactics are almost always embarrassing.
So is he right?
Well last night at St James Park was an uncomfortable watch but it was extreme circumstances.
There were two unique factors for me.
Firstly, I think we have to differentiate between Manchester City and the other five members of the top six. It is a nonsense really for Jamie Carragher to be putting it that way, as this season there is clearly just a top one, and then the rest.
Man City have won 19 of their 20 games and have 58 points from a possible 60. Newcastle/Rafa would not have used such extreme tactics against any other team.
Their closest challengers Manchester United hosted Man City earlier this month and that was embarrassing. Yes Newcastle did have only 22% possession but Jose Mourinho, despite spending as much as Man City on transfer fees and wages, parked the bus and had only 35% possession, at home in a derby as well!!!
In games this season already, Newcastle went to Old Trafford and scored the first goal, kept attacking and should have gone at least two up, before mistakes let them down.
Same at Stamford Bridge, attacked early on and took the lead, before poor defending in the absence of Jamaal Lascelles, saw the Magpies capitulate.
Secondly, and I think even more importantly, if it hadn’t been for the way the fixtures fell combined with where Newcastle find themselves in a relegation battle, I don’t think Rafa Benitez would have gone to such extreme lengths, particularly in the first half hour when his team didn’t really even try and get out of their half.
Bottom line is that as I write this on Thursday morning Newcastle are two days away from playing Brighton, then another two days to Stoke, two games that are massive if Rafa Benitez is to keep the club up.
Rafa claims that his team selection last night wasn’t about resting key players/rotation but does anybody honestly believe that if this Man City game was a total one-off with Newcastle needing a point to stay up, he would have left Gayle, Ritchie, Clark, Atsu and Merino, all on the bench?
The team he felt he had to play last night was totally incapable of keeping possession when pressured, which was pretty much every time anybody had the ball!
You saw the difference when the subs came on, with Gayle, Atsu and Merino showing far more composure and ability to retain possession and carry the ball.
Before they came on, even when Newcastle were trying to get back level with the players they had on the pitch, it was an almost impossible task, as they failed to keep possession for more than a couple of passes.
One of the best and most expensively built teams in the world up against Championship level players such as Aarons, Diame and others, it doesn’t take a genius to work it out.
The thing of course that really riles Jamie Carragher and his TV associates is that Rafa Benitez almost pulled off an astonishing result, especially considering he’d left half his first team out.
If Manchester City had put four or five past Newcastle then I don’t think we’d be having this debate as the pundits would happily have purred about Guardiola’s team and replayed the goals time after time, rather than criticising Rafa for spoiling the entertainment and making their jobs harder.
If Newcastle had scored the equaliser that they threatened to get in those closing stages, as the crowd roared them on once they got the smallest of encouragements, Jamie Carragher and his mates would have been furious.
I guarantee you that any praise for a Newcastle point would have been so begrudging and they would be shouting ‘not fair’ because Rafa’s team hadn’t lay down and allowed Man City to play pretty patterns through them.
“Not just Newcastle, but the Premier League in general, when they come up against the top six, certainly at home, it has becoming embarrassing.
“The Premier League now is becoming a bit of a joke league, with the top teams being so far ahead of the ones at the bottom.
“For those clubs, it’s almost like they are accepting they are going to lose the game, as long as it is only one or two-nil.
“The Premier League has been built on every team having a go, that is why everyone around the world wants to watch it.
“Will they keep watching if they keep seeing football like that?’”
“I have no problem with Newcastle sitting deep…
“I played under Rafa Benitez, and it’s not just Newcastle, I have seen it virtually every week.
“There has got to be some sort of aggression, some sort of plan for winning the ball back, and then going forward.
“It i seeing it at home (that is particularly bad), when every team came to Anfield (back in the day) they played like that, but at home…it’s a sad state of affairs for the Premier League.”
Stats from BBC Sport:
Newcastle 0 Manchester City 1
Man City: Sterling 31
Possession was Man City 78% Newcastle 22%
Total shots were Man City 21 Newcastle 6
Shots on target were Man City 6 Newcastle 2
Corners were Man City 8 Newcastle 3
Referee: Andre Marriner
Elliot, Yedlin, Lascelles, Mbemba (Merino 77), Dummett, Manquillo, Diame, Shelvey, Murphy, Aarons (Atsu 71), Joselu (Gayle 62)
Darlow, Clark, Perez, Ritchie
Crowd: 52,311 (Man City 3,000)
(Instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to the game – Read HERE)
(Give us your fan ratings on all 14 Newcastle players HERE)
(Pep Guardiola “It’s not easy when Newcastle don’t want to play” – Read it HERE)